At party picnic Greenwich Dems charge forward

Frank Farricker says he’s heard all the reasons why Greenwich Democrats can’t win and countered that with a few facts.

He noted in 2008 President Barack Obama won Greenwich and that the district’s congressman, Jim Himes, is from Greenwich as is U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal. He also crowed about Leslie Moriarty, a Greenwich Democrat who is now chairman of the Board of Education.

“The idea that Greenwich Democrats can’t do anything couldn’t be further from the truth,” Mr. Farricker said. “We have growing numbers. We have impassioned voters. We have been going forward and Republicans are stuck in place in this town.”

Mr. Farricker, chairman of the Greenwich Democratic Town Committee (DTC), said all of this at last Sunday’s annual DTC picnic to fire up the troops leading into Election Day where Greenwich Democrats, for the first time in recent memory, have a full ballot of candidates. Not only are Democrats seeking to keep the state’s congressional delegation to Washington, D.C., entirely blue, but the party has candidates in all three of the state representative races as well as the state Senate.

So the annual kickoff to the campaign season wasn’t just a day of food, music and speeches. It was also a call to action, encouraging Democrats not just to donate but also to volunteer. Mr. Farricker reminded those in attendance several times that the DTC is having its volunteer organization meeting tonight, Sept. 13, at Town Hall at 7.

The program at the picnic included several speakers, mixing together the state races with the congressional ones. That meant appearances not just by state representative candidates Stephanie Paulmeno and David Rafferty and state Senate candidate Daniel Dauplaise, but U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy (D-4), who is running for the United States Senate against Republican Linda McMahon, and Mr. Himes, who is seeking a third term in Congress against Republican Steve Obsitnik, as well.

John Blankley, who is running for state representative in the 149th District, was unable to attend due to a trip to his native England for the 50th anniversary of his college’s founding.

Himes says election is clear choice

Mr. Himes, a Cos Cob resident and former head of the DTC, said that the picnic was one of his favorite events of the year.

“You are not just friends and supporters, you’re family,” Mr. Himes told the crowd, which was said by the DTC to be a record turnout.

Mr. Himes later added, “There has never been an election in which the choice is clearer. You saw it at the conventions. You know it when you hear Republicans speak. You know we as Democrats stand for an idea that is not just Democratic, but American… This idea is that we come together to do big and important things to support each other, to make each and every American child is educated, to make sure nobody in the greatest and richest country in the world dies because they can’t get access to a doctor… We accomplish the great things in our history by coming together with government in partnership with a robust private sector and this has been utterly rejected by the other side today.”

There was a heavy focus on the Senate race, which is far tighter than many pundits had been predicting. Recent polls have had Ms. McMahon, a Greenwich resident and the former CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment, either narrowly ahead or narrowly behind Mr. Murphy, giving Republicans their best chance in years to capture a Senate seat and end the Democratic domination of the state’s congressional representation that’s been in place since 2006.

A victory for Ms. McMahon would almost certainly give control of the U.S. Senate to the Republicans, something Mr. Murphy said he didn’t want to see happen for reasons that went beyond just his own political future.

“My mother grew up very poor in public housing in New Britain and she made it in this world and she raised a son one generation removed from poverty who could be a United States congressman because we had a deal in place in this nation,” Mr. Murphy said. “If you work hard and play by the rules, even if you’re a poor little girl growing up in the housing projects, you can make it because the community is going to wrap its hands around you and give you a toolbox of opportunity like public education, public housing and college aid and a job for your father across the street making things for the federal government.”

Mr. Murphy said today’s Republican Party was living in a “fantasy world” envisioning a country that never existed where people only made it based on their own merits, ingenuity and luck.

“That’s not the history of our country,” Mr. Murphy said. “That’s not the history of my family. That’s not the history of your family. We work as a nation because we have that deal in place, you work hard and we’ll help you make it. If the Republican Party wins this election, they will tear that deal to shreds.”

Support for Murphy

Mr. Blumenthal, who defeated Ms. McMahon in 2010, spoke at the picnic and said his first two years in office had been exhilarating and satisfying but his “great frustration” was the “gridlock and partisan paralysis” he found there. He stated that Mr. Murphy, co-chairman of the bipartisan center aisle caucus in the House of Representatives, would be able to help him reach out to and work with Republicans.

“Chris Murphy is a public official with a record of reaching compromise and consensus and bipartisan solutions that work to advance American manufacturing, to make sure we protect our environment, to have a balanced approach to cutting the debt and the deficit, and making sure we have fiscal responsibility,” Mr. Blumenthal said. “He is someone who can bring wisdom, balance and judgment to Washington.”

Ms. McMahon’s high poll numbers have been attributed to large amounts of spending on political advertising thanks to her personal fortune. Mr. Blumenthal claimed Ms. McMahon has unleashed a “$50-million negative attack machine” on Mr. Murphy, just like she had to him two years ago. Mr. Murphy said Ms. McMahon had spent $9.8 million on television advertising compared to his $1.7 million, creating a nearly eight to one ratio, and Greenwich Democrat Charles Lee made an impassioned plea on his behalf.

“Linda McMahon is trying to smother the truth with her money, with her vast, dirty, ill-gotten fortune” Mr. Lee said. “This is the woman who two years ago had the temerity to accuse Richard Blumenthal of a lack of integrity and this time she’s trying to convince you Chris Murphy is lazy and not filling the duties of his office when he’s one of the most highly regarded congressmen in Washington. We can’t let this happen… If the wrestling lady wins, Connecticut will be a laughingstock around the country.”

State candidates speak

Each of the Greenwich candidates running for the legislature was introduced by an elected official. Mr. Rafferty, who is challenging incumbent Republican State Rep. Fred Camillo in the 151st District, was introduced by Mr. Murphy as someone who would be “an awesome state representative” because of the years he had invested into the community.

Mr. Rafferty, who is in his fifth term as president of the Old Greenwich Association, said his time working as a volunteer in the community in areas like the PTA, the Lions Club and youth sports leagues showed that someone can have an impact and make a difference.

“The Republican Party has tried to sell us on the idea that conservatism means tearing down things that build prosperity and security for all Americans,” Mr. Rafferty said. “This includes denying health care to those who can’t afford it, shifting the tax burden onto the middle class and the poor, defunding social services, and squeezing teachers and firefighters and municipal employees. This is being conservative? No, it’s not and we shouldn’t be fooled when Republicans say they’re being conservative. What they’re being is radical.”

To combat that, Mr. Rafferty pledged to move on issues such as increasing capital funding opportunities for local businesses through a “business incubator program” in Hartford and legislation that permits towns like Greenwich to “easily and responsibly” purchase a utility company’s assets to establish their own town-owned and -managed municipal utilities to give Greenwich more control and create local jobs. He also said there needs to be more focus on job retention in both the public and private sector in Connecticut to keep people from having to leave the state, increase state participation on environmental issues like the Greenwich High School field remediation and ending pay inequality for women reentering the job market after taking time to raise a family.

State Comptroller Kevin Lembo introduced Ms. Paulmeno, who is running for an open seat in the 150th District against Republican Stephen Walko. Mr. Farricker said thanks to redistricting, this was now an area made up of 1/3 Republicans, 1/3 Democrats and 1/3 unaffiliated voters, making it a prime district to send a Democrat from, especially someone with Ms. Paulmeno’s record in public health. Mr. Lembo praised her knowledge and commitment and said “we need her voice in the House.”

Ms. Paulmeno, a registered nurse who was community health planner for the town as well as an administrator, is in her first run for office but revealed at the picnic that she was initially approached four years ago by State Reps. Lile Gibbons and Livvy Floren to run for the seat because of her knowledge about health care, public health and senior issues. However, she had to turn down the overture since she was a Democrat and they were looking for Republicans. She said she could understand their confusion because she had always approached things in a non-partisan fashion, working with people in both parties on issues she considers important like health education and improving health outcomes in a diverse district like the 150th as well as other matters like housing and veterans.

“I think I am the best candidate,” Ms. Paulmeno said. “I’ve heard nothing but good things about my opponent. I understand he is a very nice man and a responsible man, but I think I’ve been in my profession longer than he’s been alive. I’ve been working for the public and on issues for more than 40 years.”

Mr. Dauplaise was introduced by state Attorney General George Jepsen, a graduate of GHS class of 1972, who recalled town Democratic functions when he was a kid and said how the party has only gotten stronger with greater numbers since then. Mr. Jepsen said Mr. Dauplaise, who has worked as both a congressional staffer and a public school teacher, was “smart, hard working and out there fighting for you.”

“Electing our slate including, me, David Rafferty, John Blankley and Stephanie Paulmeno will ensure that Greenwich will have progressive representation that will help this town will move forward into the 21st Century,” Mr. Dauplaise said.

As a teacher, Mr. Dauplaise said that one of the first things he learned was how to spot when one of his students turned in homework “he wasn’t exactly responsible for.” He compared that to what incumbent Republican State Sen. L. Scott Frantz was claiming about his legislative accomplishments and “I recognize the same things.”

“There are a lot of things in the legislative primer that were wonderful, all the bills he worked on and all the bills he passed, but unfortunately he is turning in someone else’s homework,” Mr. Dauplaise said. “I did my homework and my opponent voted against equal rights for marriage for people in Connecticut. He voted in favor of keeping Connecticut on a list with China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Cuba to have a costly and unjust death penalty and voted against the governor’s budget, which will bring jobs and infrastructure to Connecticut. I did my homework and he is wrong for Greenwich.”

While the Democrats acknowledged they face tough odds since Republicans enjoy a nearly two to one advantage in registered voters, spirits were high. Selectman Drew Marzullo even contributed a piece of performance art to the proceedings, beginning his remarks by addressing an empty chair in the style that Clint Eastwood just recently did most notably at the Republican National Convention and joking that Republicans would soon resort to blaming President Obama for the tornado that touched down over the weekend in New York City and the small earthquake that trembled in Old Greenwich last Friday.

The town’s Republican Town Committee and Cos Cob Republican Club’s 81st annual clambake is set for Sept. 30 at 1. In addition to the town’s state candidates, both Ms. McMahon and Mr. Obsitnik are expected to attend and speak to their supporters for their own get-out-the-vote efforts.


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